Sunday, June 1, 2014

Take a Luxurious Cruise along the Coast of Spain by The Tyler Group Barcelona Travel Guide

DISEMBARKING after nine days on board a luxurious cruise ship is like being dumped by your first love.

PICTURE PERFECT: The delightful chocolate box fishing village of Cascais is just one port.[GETTY]
There are plenty more ships in the sea but bidding adieu to Crystal Serenity left me feeling bereft, as if no other cruise will ever float my boat again.

Like Vegas hotels, cruise ships get bolder every year so although they come bigger than Crystal Serenity, none are more beautiful.

The 1,100-passenger vessel was recently voted the best mid-sized ship for the 20th consecutive year.

My wife Jenny and I were amazed to find Crystal Serenity had undergone a stunning £11million makeover since we last stepped aboard three years ago.

There are pristine indoor and outdoor dining areas as well as extraordinary sights such as the living wall of plants – which even includes the chef’s herb garden.

Stylish new penthouse suites have chic furnishings that wouldn’t look out of place in a boutique hotel and there are 70 specially air-conditioned hypoallergenic cabins.

The ship’s newly expanded all-inclusive offering takes the food and drink experience up yet another notch.

The finest wines, single malts such as Glenlivet and Macallan and lip-smacking cocktails (the Aviator was my pre-dinner tipple of choice) are all included in the price, encouraging guests to try something new every day.

I didn’t order a single vodka and tonic all week.

Serenity has five restaurants which include the elegant Crystal Dining Room with its floor-to-ceiling windows and tables set with Schott Zwiesel crystal, Villeroy & Boch china and crisp linens.

This is where most guests eat lunch and supper.

The menu changes almost daily to include traditional dishes from wherever the ship happens to be.

Speciality restaurant Prego, which has just been remodelled as part of the redesign, serves celebrated Italian cuisine by Piero Selvaggio, owner of the Valentino restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

There’s Asian cuisine next door at Silk Road, dished up by chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

Here the signature black cod is so beautifully prepared it’s a wonder all the other fish don’t leap out of the Mediterranean and form an orderly queue at the door to applaud.

Our nine-day Southern Spanish Sun sojourn from Barcelona to Dover took in many European must-see cities such as the Roman port of Cartagena and Malaga, where we took a 30-minute drive down the winding coastal road to visit the village of Mijas and its Contemporary Art Museum with world-beating Picasso collection.

Another day we docked in Gibraltar, from where you can take in the amazing views of the villages of southern Spain and towering tips of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains across the sea.

Its famous brown tailless Barbary apes run wild on The Rock.

The locals believe Gibraltar will remain British territory as long as the apes are present so they are fed every day and sent to the Royal Navy hospital when they are sick.

Crystal Serenity: One of the world’s most elegant ships [PH]
Overnight we sailed onwards to Lisbon, where a 10-hour stopover allowed time for a tour of the Estoril Formula One racetrack, lunch in the chocolate box fishing village of Cascais and a stroll through the cobbled alleyways of the millennium-old Alfama district.

Our final stop was Bordeaux, winemaking capital of the world, famed for producing red and whites since the Romans planted grapes in its fertile soil.

We spent the afternoon in the city’s fascinating Jewish district, focused around the vast Great Synagogue on Causserouge Street.

Crystal Serenity sails many routes.

After Dover she headed for Copenhagen, followed by a trip around the British Isles.

You can keep track of the ship’s progress via webcam on Crystal Cruises’ website.

As I write this she’s docked at dusk in the Canary Islands.

I can see some lucky blighter lazily leaning out of his penthouse balcony with a flute of something sparkling in his hand, no doubt contemplating the black cod in sweet miso sauce waiting for him at Silk Road later that night.

Friday, May 30, 2014

10 Tips to Avoid Pickpockets while Traveling by The Tyler Group Barcelona Travel Guide

For many, vacation time is right around the corner and the thought of the perfect getaway does not include being a victim of crime. While most vacations will go as planned, some will fall victim to petty theft: mainly purse snatching and pickpockets. Thieves target tourists because they are the ones with the money. In Barcelona alone, it is estimated almost 6,000 incidents happen daily–that is 1 out of every 4 tourists. So how do you protect yourself from becoming part of the pick-pocketing statistics? Here are 10 sure-fire ways to better your odds.

1) Wear a money belt – This is the most important thing you can do to lower the chances of being pick-pocketed. A money belt is worn under your clothing; this is where you keep your passport, extra credit cards and cash. Keep that day’s cash and a credit card in your day bag or wallet for easy access. You want to think of the money belt like a safe deposit box, and only get into your money belt when replenishing your wallet. When getting into your money belt, do it in a safe area like your hotel room, a bathroom stall or a changing room.

2) Do not put anything in your back pocket – The outline of a wallet in the back pocket is advertising to pickpockets to rob you, especially in crowded areas like metro platforms and escalators. Place your wallet in your front pocket and put an elastic band (like the rubber band that you find holding the broccoli in the grocery store) around your wallet. This will create friction in your pocket and make it just that harder for a thief to steal from you.

3) Valuables need to stay in your hotel room – Laptops, tablets and such are much safer in your hotel room than in the bottom of a bag on the streets. When leaving valuables in your room, put them away so as not to tempt the hotel staff. Better yet, leave them in a hotel safe or at the front desk.

4) Walk with purpose and confidence – Pickpockets look for the confused tourists–the ones constantly looking at a map, taking hesitant steps, having a “deer in the headlights” look on their face. Before leaving your hotel, restaurant or metro stop, check your surroundings and directions. If you do need to look something up, stop somewhere with a wall to your back. If that is not an option, get to a place that is wide open so you can tell if someone is approaching.

5) Secure your belongings – When sitting or eating, never put your purse/bag on the chair behind you or on the ground. Countless bags are stolen while people are in cafes and restaurants. Loop a strap of your daypack/purse around your arm, leg or chair leg. If you are in an airport or on a train and want to sleep, use a cable lock to secure your bags to the seat, luggage rack or even yourself. If you have a camera or smart phone don’t place them on tabletops where they can easily be snatched. Thieves are always looking for the easy mark, so even the most minor obstacle (a strap around a chair) can be an effective deterrent.

6) Carry a purse or bag with the flap against your body – You want to cut down the number of entry points into your bag so thieves’ fingers have fewer places to wander. If your bag has a long strap, carry your bag across your body. Never keep important items in any outside pocket.

7) Get to know your new money before heading out – If you’re traveling out of the country you will be confronted with foreign money. Become familiar with the local currency before you hit the pavement. Pickpockets observe travelers shopping, and then later know exactly where to lift their wallets. Count your change and put it away right there and then, and don’t be rushed by cashiers.

8) Stay clear of commotions and avoid crowds – A fight breaking out, someone dropping items, even people falling down are most likely a smokescreen for bad guys wanting to separate tourists from their money. Crowds anywhere, but especially on public transit and in markets, provide thieves with plenty of targets, opportunities and easy escape routes. Sometimes you cannot avoid a crowd, especially during rush hour on a subway. Try to go to the first car or the last car where there are typically fewer people. Avoid standing near the doorways of trains, as groups of pickpockets can rush at you when the doors open.

9) Know how they work – Get to know the local scams thieves use to rob travelers. Most guidebooks will have a section just on this. You will then recognize situations to avoid and keep your attention focused on your valuables, not on their intentional distractions.

10) Be unpredictable – If you get the feeling someone is following you, change directions. Go into the nearest shop/hotel/restaurant and wait a few minutes. Most likely they will move on; if not, call the police.

From the well-dressed businessman to the group of children with outstretched arms, it can be difficult to recognize a thief. But travelers can prevent the majority of common thefts by arming themselves with these 10 tips. Follow these time-tested tips and soon you will be enjoying your vacation and not worrying about pickpockets.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How to cut the cost of your holiday by The Tyler Group Barcelona Travel Guide

Guardian Money tells you how you can save more than £400 on credit and debit cards, foreign exchange, car hire and airport parking before you even leave for your next holiday.

Picking the wrong plastic to use while abroad could quite easily set you back £100 in fees and hidden commission, according to new research.

However, by being card sharp when you're buying items and withdrawing money, you can get the bill down to a fraction of that – and, in some cases, reduce it to zero.

If you're a Norwich & Peterborough building society Gold Classic current account holder, you're sorted because this is one of the very few UK bank accounts that offers completely free debit card usage abroad, with no nasties lurking in the small print.

For the rest of us, the best bet may be the Halifax Clarity credit card, which charges nothing for foreign exchange, and doesn't impose ATM fees either.

N&P's Gold Classic account and the Halifax Clarity card came out top in a comprehensive survey of debit and credit card overseas charges carried out by Andrew Hagger of personal finance website (see table).

Metro Bank – a relatively new player with branches mainly in the London area – also scored highly, as its debit and credit cards are free of fees, provided you are within Europe.

One of the big problems for consumers is that the fees and charges for using your plastic abroad are often bewilderingly complex, with stacks of jargon and small print. Someone using their debit card to withdraw cash from a foreign ATM may well find they are charged 2.75% to 3% of the money in hidden commission, plus a separate ATM fee that is usually expressed as a percentage of the amount taken out. For example, NatWest's ATM fee is 2% of the value, with a minimum of £2 and a maximum of £5, whereas the recently launched M&S Bank current account doesn't impose an ATM fee.

If you have a Halifax, Santander, Lloyds or TSB debit card, be aware that they all impose a fixed fee for overseas purchases in shops, restaurants etc – and that's on top of the 2.75% to 3% they take off you for "currency conversion". The fixed fee is £1.50 at Halifax, £1.25 at Santander and £1 at Lloyds and TSB. It is applied on each transaction – ie, every time you buy something. You can see why's Martin Lewis has dubbed them "the cards from hell" to be avoided at all costs.

Hagger says it's important to check the charges that apply to your card before you head off. "At least if you understand the overseas charges, you can adapt your spending accordingly. For example, you don't want to be making cash withdrawals or purchases of £10 or £20 if you're going to be hit with £1.50-plus each time," he says.

The Halifax Clarity card boasts that it has "no fee to use it anywhere worldwide". It applies MasterCard's exchange rate at the time you make the transaction, and does not add any "loading" fees or charges. In addition, it won't charge for ATM withdrawals. But make sure you're paying off your bill in full every month. There is no interest-free period on cash withdrawals, so you pay interest from the day you take the money out. However, the representative APR is a not-bad 12.9%, meaning a £100 withdrawal would cost just over £1 in interest at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, don't fall for the "dynamic currency conversion" trap while you are away. If a shop, restaurant or hotel gives you the option to pay in sterling, rather than the local currency, insist you pay in the latter. The same applies to ATMs.

"I was asked if I wanted to pay in sterling at least half a dozen times while in Valencia a month ago," says Hagger. "Although you may think it's useful to know exactly how much you'll be debited, the downside is that it gives the retailer the opportunity to use a poor local bank exchange rate, which could see you paying well over the odds – in some cases by 3% or 4%. Always choose to pay in the currency of the country you're visiting." RJ

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The best spots for art in Barcelona

There’s more to Barcelona than Antoni Gaudí and the Picasso Museum.The Tyler Group Barcelona Expat taps into its unconventional arts scene.

Esther Arias Galería de Arte y Taller

Everyone exits Metro Jaume and heads directly to the Picasso Museum via Carrer Princesa. But there is a much more attractive short cut that will take you past Esther Arias’s gallery in a warm and inviting 18th-century building. Although Arias often devotes a wall to a guest artist, this is her taller (workshop) and the paintings on display are her own: enchanting, colourful abstracts with a dreamlike quality. Along with the large canvases, there are some exquisite framed acrylics on paper at a good price. This is the perfect place to begin a walk through the Born with its many art and artisan shops.

• Carrer Cotoners 14, +34 93 268 2494, Open Tue–Sat 10.30am–2pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Day Tour in Barcelona

Barcelona is a city so rich in history, culture and cuisine, with so many places to shop and a constant whirlwind of activities and events that it is easy to forget that Catalonia is so much more than just its magnificent capital city. When the city walls become too cramped or the urban noise too deafening, the time has come to head out into the country and see the many splendid things that Catalonia has to offer, from the celebrated beauty of the Costa Brava and the sandy beaches of the Costa Dorada to the mountain scenery of the Pyrenees and the historical villages in Osona, Girona or Alt Empordà. Time isn’t a factor as there are plenty of incredible day trips, such as a visit to the coastal town of Sitges or the mountain and monastery of Montserrat, as well as many relaxing weekend getaways that are bound to please history and culture buffs, gourmets and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Parc del Laberint d’Horta

With a touch of Italian physiognomy, this park is home to the oldest garden in the city and is an example of the neoclassical gardens of the 18th century. Its name comes from the labyrinth of cypress bushes that is located at the lower part of the park.
It is possibly the most beautiful park in Barcelona. The gardens, the structure and the architecture make it the perfect place to lose oneself. Next to the famous labyrinth, the park has other small delights: views, places for reflection or for rest. Here we can find the Boxwood gardens, with their topiary art (figures); the Domèstic, which has a planting of camellias; the Molses (mosses); the Petit Laberint


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fachmessen in Barcelona


Datum: 22-SEP-12 bis 25-Oct-12
Expohogar Primavera feiert 29 Jahre führende Design. 29 Jahre Innovation und Qualität. Expohogar überraschen Sie mit Trends in der Innenarchitektur und die neuesten Geschenke und Haushaltswaren. Alle diese plus Reihe von parallelen Aktivitäten zusammengefasst unter dem Markennamen Expohogar Tendencias.
Veranstaltungsort: Montjuic Messegelände, Barcelona, Spanien

Salon Nautico
Datum: 26-Oct-12 bis 30-Oct-12
Salon Nautico ist die größte Bootsmesse in Spanien. Es ist ein Ereignis, das immense Interesse wird generiert, wenn es gehalten wird. Port Vell in Barcelona ist Gastgeber für dieses internationale Ereignis, das durch ein Erbe der langen und renommierten fünfzigjähriger gesichert ist[…]


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